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The opening day of CES 2021 started with major electrification announcements from General Motors and Cadillac. Later in the day, there were some exciting new vehicle demonstrations from Audi and Sono Motors while a panel brought to life some of the major issues automakers are confronting since the pandemic.

Going Contactless and More Green Opportunities

Representatives from Bosch, Panasonic, CAR and Audi discussed the ‘Future of Consumer Vehicles’ in a panel hosted by Alexis Shoemaker, Senior Research Coordinator, Consumer Technology Association. Parts of the discussion focused on how the pandemic is accelerating changes in mobility and what future technologies are on the horizon.

Carla Bailo, President and CEO, Center for Automotive Research, says that the pandemic has brought many changes. There is a mistrust in public transport and carsharing being replaced by micro-mobility. Now automakers are looking at different fabrics and coatings. There is a trend of contactless transactions.

“If we expect consumers to use a contactless way to pay, it has to be integrated and seamless,” says Bailo.

Since Covid-19, there has been a change workplaces where 90% are planning not to go back to the office and only 20% are planning to go back to the office full time. Covid will probably change the commuting pattern. Bailo says companies are trying to figure out what to do with the extra office and parking space

“It will open a plethora of opportunities to use spaces more efficiently. We can turn some of the parking into green space,” adds Bailo, “Covid is accelerating different ways of using the roads such as for restaurants. Let’s not revert back. Let’s keep the momentum going.”

Stefan Buerkle, Senior Vice President, Sales, Cross-Domain Computing-Robert Bosch LLC, is seeing a trend for consumers wanting contactless keyless entry.

He says when vehicles working with smart city infrastructure much can be accomplished such as Ford’s and Bosch’s pilot with autonomous parking.

”You can drop off your car in a designated area and it parks itself. It enables a higher utilization rate of parking infrastructure. It’s a win/win for all participants,” says Buerkle.

The car has come from the third space and now is a second space, says Andrew Poliak, CTO Panasonic Automotive.

Poliak told the story of the parents who cut off the Wi-Fi in the house because the children were not behaving. When the house became quiet, the parents found the kids in the garage using the Wi-Fi hotspot in the car. He foresees a future of in-car car audio where the navigation is whispered into the ear of the driver and the drivers and passenger in the car can not hear it.

All over the world, there has been a shift towards contactless and touchless and especially contactless for test drives. Audi is seeing the trend where people are using their vehicles for holidays to go out in a cocoon. Another innovation is the possibility to buy things just for a season.

For example, a driver doesn’t have to pay for high-beam LED headlights during the summer but may want to only pay for it in the winter, says Christiane Zorn, Senior Director Product Marketing, AUDI AG.


A Wild Spin in Audi RS GT e-tron with Race car Driver Lucas di Grassi

Where Audi is now innovating in electric vehicles is through technology that creates super race car-like driving experiences.

World e-sports racing champion Lucas di Grassi, a Brazilian who drives the Audi e-Tron race car, narrated live what it is like to drive the Audi RS GT GT e-tron around a track.

Di Grassi squealed like the wheels, “Incredible acceleration! Adaptive suspension! Mind-blowing package! The torque is insane. It’s crazy. It’s freezing outside but my heart is so beating so fast I have to take my jacket off. There’s no word for it except W-O-W!!! It’s unbelievable acceleration-torque- handling– SUPER four-wheel drive!”

Marc Litche, head of Audi Design calls the prototype: “The most attractive design of all my car design,”. He says it’s called Gran Turismo because: “We took high-performance Gran Turismo (GT) and added Audi DNA.”

Siegfried Pint, Head of Powertrain Development, says the car features 800 Volts of electric power. His job is to take the experiences of race car driving and make it happen in the software. He describes the driving as light like “It’s like a dance with a car. The GT has the speed of a bullet and the precision of a hunting dog going after a rabbit.”

Litche says that the design started in the wind tunnel. It’s the first Audi design where the batteries pack is on the floor and the proportions are “awesome.”

Litche is a tall man and he can sit comfortably in the backseat because the GT has four doors. He says most people with these kinds of cars want leather but instead it is a recycled fabric from PET and the carpet is recycled nylon. The car will be built in CO2 neutral factories

He describes the driving experience as having the manoeuvrability and agility of a race car plus you have four-wheel drive and four-wheel steering. The front air curtain is part of the design to allow the wind to blow through. The LED lights accent the shape.

“It’s a very sophisticated aerodynamic design. This is our masterpiece. We look forward to bringing it to market,” says Litche.

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Shining a Light for Solar Inspiration

Sono Motors spotlighted their new Sion SEV, an affordable solar-powered electric vehicle.

The idea for the car started a garage in Munich, Germany, says Laurin Hahn, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Sono Motors.

Hahn asked: “Why do we keep burning fossil fuel in our combustion engines? The answer to our problem was shining right above our heads. Solar energy.”

“We are the first company that is based on community decisions,” says Hahn about the process for coming to market.

Thomas Hausch, Chief Operations Officer, showed that the Sion has 248 flexible integrated solar cells all over the vehicle. He says in Central Europe the solar cells can produce 21.7 mi of electricity a day.

“What can be more convenient than a car that recharges itself for free whenever there’s daylight?” asked Friedrich Wolff, Sono Motors’ first employee. She is now the Director of Human Resources.

Then she answered the most important question – what about the moss, do you have to water it? “Everyone wants to know about the moss – you don’t have to water the moss,” says Wolf. She then showed how to change the colour of the moss by a lighting control.

“We are at the brink of a transformation that will usher in many advantages for people and the planet alike,” adds Wolf.

There is a Sono app to check the battery state, locate, preheat and air condition the car. The app features keyless entry, car-sharing with friends or neighbours. The Sion has a bi-directional outlet to power tools or for camping.

To cut down costs, the Sion has an aluminium frame that is cheaper than stamping steel. The exterior is a black polymer and does not require painting. The engine is supplied by Continental. There are no showrooms with online sales only, cutting the cost by 15%, says Hausch.


If we could be an inspiration to Tesla and other companies that would be our vision.

The list price before VAT for the Sion is €21,428 about $26,400 US.

Hahn announced that Sono Motors will be licensing its solar technology to autonomous shuttle provider, Easy Mile. “The shuttles become cleaner and more efficient with less dependency on charging infrastructure,” he says.

Arun Ramakrishnan, Senior Solar Integration Manager at Sono Motors ,says that the solar panels will be 20 to 23% efficient. The solar cells are made of a polymer instead of glass that are seamlessly integrated into the body.

The company is also working on putting solar panels on truck trailers that can generate up to 80 KW per day. He says the energy modules are 20 to 23% efficient. If the Sion car is dented the solar cells will still work unless there is major damage. Then the door or panel will have to be replaced but there is no painting cost.

“We are engineering a solar module that is flexible and fully adaptable. An average German drives 17 kilometres a day. The Sion can be charged up to 34 km a day,” says Hahn.

The average range will be about 250 km for the battery. There is cobalt in the batteries. However, they are working on batteries with less cobalt.

The Sion will be marketed in Europe first. There will be repair and service shops set up.

When Jona Cristians, President/Founder, was asked if he is inspired by Elon Musk, he responded with a mission statement for the industry and world.

“I would actually like to turn it around. We were inspired by a lot of companies, Tesla and Fairphone. If we could be an inspiration to Tesla and other companies that would be our vision because we are all in this together for a world without fossil fuels.”

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